France Decides Not to Criminalize International Bribery

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“France has severely restricted its jurisdiction and its ability to prosecute cases with an international dimension, which, given the country’s importance in the international economy and the scale of many of its companies, is very regrettable,” according to a report by GRECO. The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) was established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to monitor States’ compliance with the organization’s anti-corruption standards.

In June of 2000, France introduced legislation related to the OECD Convention. However in the GRECO report the evaluation team wonders “why, despite the economic weight of France and its close historical links with certain regions of the world considered to be rife with corruption, it has not yet imposed any penalties for bribing foreign public officials.” (¶ 76)

France ratified the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173) on April 25, 2008 with an effective date of August 1, 2008. France entered two reservations as part of enacting the law.

France’s Reservation on the Offense:

“In accordance with Article 37, paragraph 1, of the Convention, the French Republic reserves the right not to establish as a criminal offence the conduct of trading in influence defined in Article 12 of the Convention, in order to exert an influence, as defined by the said Article, over the decision-making of a foreign public official or a member of a foreign public assembly, referred to in Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention.”

France’s Reservation on Jurisdiction:

“In accordance with Articles 17, paragraph 2, and 37, paragraph 2, of the Convention, the French Republic declares that it reserves the right to establish its jurisdiction as regards Article 17, paragraph 1.b, of the Convention, only when the offender is one of its nationals and the offences are punishable under the legislation of the country where they have been committed, and that it reserves the right not to establish its jurisdiction regarding the situations referred to in Article 17, paragraph 1.c, of the Convention.”

In my reading of the GRECO report, it sounds like France dropped the international bribery charge because it is too hard to prove and obtain conviction. (¶ 83)

To be fair to France, GRECO has not yet completed the Third Evaluation Round for all 46 members. So other countries many take a similar position. But the 11 made public so far have not excluded bribery of foreign officials.

France causes other problems with compliance programs. France blocks traditional SOX whistleblower programs because of concerns abut worker’s privacy.  If you want a whistleblower program in France, you need to register it with the CNiL and it must be limited to reports about the “vital interests of the company or it its employee’s physical or mental integrity”


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